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A Brief History Of HIGHLEY by Caroline Packer B.Ed.

HIGHLEY IS NOW ONE OF THE LARGEST VILLAGES IN SHROPSHIRE. It is mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086 where it is recorded as HUGLEI , named after the lord of the manor.

The oldest building in the village is St. Mary's church, built about 1140, it has been added to over the centuries. To the left of the church is the late medieval church house, the original home of the priest.

Where Church Lane meets the main road is the site of the village school built in 1863. It is now the Parish Hall.

In 1874, the Highley Mining Company began producing coal at the newly built colliery. As the industry grew, miners came from other mining areas, notably Staffordshire. As the population increased many new houses were built and today long streets of miners' houses still survive. A typical example is to be found along Clee View.  As you go north out of the centre of the village you will approach Garden Village. This was developed at the turn of the 20th century to house the workers from Billingsley Colliery.

The pit closed in 1969 and since then many new houses have been built. Highley has changed from a mining village to a commuter village. The Severn Valley Country Park now stands were Highley colliery used to be. It was reclaimed and landscaped by volunteers in the 1980's. The Colliery Bridge, which was the first bridge to be built by the 'cantilever' technique in 1936, spans the river Severn today and gives access to the Visitor's Centre where an exhibition shows how the area used to look.

To the east of the village lies  the River Severn and an area known as 'Stanley'. Here, quarrying and mining took place, evidence of which can still be clearly seen. Highley's first pub, 'The Ship' opened here in 1770.

Just a short walk up from 'The Ship' is Highley Station opened in 1862 and now part of the Severn Valley Railway. The station was featured in the BBC comedy series 'Oh, Doctor Beeching!' and attracts many visitors each year.

The Old Houses of Highley Taken from the booklet by Gwyneth Nair.

Also read Highley: The Development of a Community 1550-1880 which has more detail - out of print but available in libraries.


In 1377 there were at least 22 families living in Highley but the first records of any houses do not appear until the sixteenth century.

Highley was a wooded area so timber was readily available and was used in many ‘black and white’ timber framed buildings between 1450 and 1650. Highley also had good building stone which was quarried from early times. Brick was used in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

The houses listed below were built before 1850. Before the miners houses of the 1880’s and later, there were very few terraced houses in Highley. Prior to 1850 nearly all the dwellings were detached farms or cottages.


The northern part of the village was the last to be cleared of woodland so there were few houses here. Before 1900 few houses existed north of the Hag Corner, the area which was later to be known as ‘Garden Village’.

The northern most cottage was just inside the parish boundary on the east side of the Bridgnorth roadand dated from the eighteenth century. It was a small cottage, built of local white sandstone, with a large chimney stack. In 1842 Ann Lloyd lived here and in 1851 it was occupied by a shoemaker named William Lloyd ( possibly her son?). The cottage had no name and was known by its address, Ingram Lane.


South of Ingram Lane on the other side of the road are Fir tree Cottages. The date stone says 1907 but this is unreliable as the building was once the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, which was founded in 1815. Even then it had a dwelling attached to it, Edward Wilcox lived there in 1851. The red sandstone of the building is similar to that quarried in The Hag in the early 19th century. It is assumed the chapel was converted to houses in 1907. The new chapel in the High Street was not built until 1912 so a corrugated iron structure was used as place of worship.


First recorded  in 1821, and was farmed during 1840’s and 1850’s by John Wellings who originally came from Middleton Scriven. By 1888 it was occupied by Cornelius DuPre, whose father had been vicar of Highley.. This house too was built from local red sandstone.


Almost opposite Woodhill Farm is The Castle public house.  It was built, in red sandstone, facing west so the back of it faces the road. It received its licence in the early 1840’s and the first licensee recorded is Mrs Sarah Evans in 1856. By 1874 her son, Evan had taken it over. It has always been known as The Castle and was built in a style which looks vaguely like a castle. However, it was not built on the site of a castle, Highley has apparently never had such a thing. On the tithe map of 1842 there is no building at all on this site.


Immediately next to The Castle, on what is now an island between old and new roads stood Hill Cottage. In the 1840’s and 1850’s a shoemaker named William Walford lived there with his family. At the turn of the twentieth century John and Elizabeth Vicarage lived there. Mr. Vicarage was a coal- haulier and died in 1912.


This was the original name of the land upon which now stands the Malt Shovel. A house was first built here around 1684. The Perry family lived and farmed here in the late 18th century and in the early 19th century the Porter family occupied it.

The first mention of the MALT SHOVEL comes in 1896 when it is said to have been a public house since 1863. The original 17th century farmhouse has been altered and added to. The house then faced west with views over the Clee Hills.


The lane running beside the Malt Shovel once led to Green Hall. It was an impressive house but fell into decay in the 1920’s and was later demolished. Some drawings and photos of Green hall have survived. It was a large timber-framed building with wide timbers of the late Elizabethan or Jacobean style. It had a huge stone chimney built onto the outside of the house. It had a semi-basement level, two main floors, and a garret level over that, making it unusually tall for a house of this type.

There were various barns and stables, gardens and a courtyard.

The history of the house is well documented from 1587, when it passed from Thurstan Holloway to his son-in-law William Pountney and then sold in 1639.

During the 17th century the house and its land was divided into two halves.

One half was occupied by Stephen Edmunds and his family, the other half by his son-in-law John Bate.

The ownership of Green Hall can be traced right through the 18th and 19th century to the Palmer family who lived there during the First World War.


Most of the early houses in the village seem to have been timber-framed but stone had been quarried locally since the Middle Ages. Stone House was so called because of the material used to make it. The first mention of this house by name is in 1591 and 1603 when John Nichols and his family lived in ‘Le Stone Howse’. In 1603 his widow Ann sold her rights to a cottage in Highley which had come to her from her father Thomas Lowe but it is not known if the cottage mentioned is Stone Cottage.

The present house is bigger than the Nichols’s house would have been and is mainly 18th century, built of local white sandstone which predates the red. However, there are no written dates recorded until 1773 when William Lamb resided there. By this time Stone House was a farm and it remained so until the late 19th century. Lamb was followed by John Fosbrook, who came from Sidbury in the late 1770’s. By 1842 the farm had seven fields, these made up the area which we now call ‘Garden Village’.

Levi Jordin, son of Squire William Jordin, lived here for a time in the mid-ninteenth century. Stone House was still a farm in 1874, but by 1881 had become the home of Henry Breakwell, a haulier, so presumably the land had been sold.


It is listed under its present name in the census returns of 1851. it was the home of a farm worker employed at Hazelwells Farm. It was probably quite new as the tithe map of 1842 shows only a barn and fold, belonging to the Hazelwells.


The house as it stands today was built of red sandstone, quarried at The Hag, and judging by its style built about 1820. It is a symmetrical design basically square in shape. Instead of one pitched roof it has four, one to each side of the square.  The building was very lavish so much so that William Easthope was reputedly made bankrupt because of the cost of its construction. The census of 1851 reveals that William Easthope, ‘a retired gentleman farmer,’ aged 68 lived at Hazelwells but he was not responsible for the running of the farm.

Easthope’s house was not the first on this site. In the 14th century be a family called de Hasselwell was well established in Highley. Did they have a dwelling there? There was certainly a house on the site by 1601 and by 1620 was occupied by Oliver Harris.

By the 1650’s, Robert Dorsett had come from Alveley and moved into the farm. The Dorsett family lived at Hazelwells until well into the 18th century. After the Dorsett family, Hazelwells was owned by several absentee landlords until the end of the 18th century. In 1785 the old house was damaged by a fire and it was rebuilt. The Pitt family lived there at the time, and certainly built new barns made with bricks made on site. In the early 19th century came the ‘modern mansion’ and was occupied by the Jinks family for well over one hundred years.


A terrace of cottages survived at New England until about 1915 when the building of sewerage works nearby became a health hazard for those living there. The row consisted of ten cottages, the longest in pre-1815 Highley and was stone built. Two wash houses stood at the end of the row. The cottages faced the road just above the ford at New England. Their gardens were on the other side of the road.

They were built in the late 1790’s to house men working in the colliery and ironworks at nearby Billingsley. The ironworks closed down in 1815 and by 1820’s the occupants of the cottages were mainly farm workers and their families.

In 1851 five of the cottages were unoccupied as industrial development was temporarily halted in Highley, but this row of cottages represented the first industrial housing in the village.


Before it was demolished Newhouse Farm was at the bottom of ‘Ben’s bank, now the site of Ashleigh Gardens. The farm had no distinct name in 1842 when it was listed as a cottage and garden. The cottage was later enlarged into red brick building, with its advertising signs facing the road, suggesting the farm had a small shop too.


Almost opposite the site of Newhouse farm is White House. First recording of the house appears about 1813 when a Mr. Pitt lived there. It is an old house with a large stepped stone chimney on its outer wall. Throughout the 19th century tradespeople not farmers lived there – first shoemakers, then Thomas Billingsley, the local carter. In 1920, Mr. Wright, a local butcher lived here. The house must have been quite an important property in the late 19th century as it one of only a few which are mentioned by name on the 1882 6’’ O.S.map.


At the top of the hill behind the recreation ground. Dowsley Hedge was the northern boundary of Cockshutt Field, one of the four open fields of the village. In 1603, John Potter lived at Dowsley. He was a labourer so the cottage must have been quite small. There is no other mention of the cottage by name until about 1780 when it is mentioned on the pew- allocation plan. There is a stone cider press in the garden.

In 1842 Thomas Fenn, the parish clerk lived here. The Fenn family had been in Highley since the early 17th century so they may have lived in the cottage for some time.


The Woodend had its origins before any surviving records. We know that by Elizabethan times there were flourishing farmhouses on this site. In 1572 John Pountney took over the tenancy of the farm following his mother’s death. When he died in 1585, John Oseland took the farm over. In 1618 Oliver Harris  bought the house from Sir John Littleton of Frankley in Worcestershire. Today, Woodend Farm is a lovely timber-framed building with an inglenook fireplace and many beams especially in the ceiling. Some of these timbers are reputed to be  timbers from broken-up ships which were brought up the river Severn as far as Bewdley around 1600.


Alane leads south from Woodend farm towards Rhea Hall,  an ancient farmstead with its walled garden. Richard de la Ree lived in Highley in 1327 and his house was more than likely on this site. There is no visible evidence of any farmhouse.

Between 1570 and 1650 The Rea ( as it was then called) was the home of another family of Pountneys. The Rea formed part of the northern boundary of Rea Field, another one of the great open fields of Medieval Highley.

The main part of the present day house is brick-built. The roof is the same as Hazelwells with four pitched roofs instead of one. However, the building itself appears to be a little earlier and smaller than Hazelwells. It probably dates from about 1790 when references are made to ‘Rea Estate’ or  ‘Rea House’.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the lands of Rea Farm were quite extensive, stretching from the main road at the top of Vicarage Lane right down to the river, and south towards what is now Station Road.


The eastern half is timber-framed on a stone base and dates back to the early 17th century; the western part is 18th century. The house was a vicarage by 1625. In 1790, Rev. Samuel Burrows came to the vicarage, where he stayed for over fifty years raising a large family and concentrating on the spiritual well-being of his parishioners.

The mock–Gothic windows would have been added during the time Burrows lived here when they were at the height of fashion.

The vicarage was superseded by a new building nearly fifty years ago.


The tithe map of 1842 shows only four cottages and the Bache Arms on the eastern side of the road. The Bache Arms was called The New Inn. This name is recorded in 1851. It received its licence as a beer-house in 1839. William and Martha Hughes were the first licensees, followed by Samuel Brick in the later 19th century.

The building is of brick with sash windows and photographs taken at the turn of the century show that today the building still looks very similar. The main changes have been at the back, where stables and outbuildings have been demolished.


The map of 1842 shows a cottage further down the high street. This is Glen Cottage. It dates from the early 19th century. It is brick built. In 1840’s and 1850’s it was the home of Benjamin Williams, a tailor. In 1851 his family consisted of a wife and seven children. Benjamin and one son  were still living there in 1881. It is thought that the cottage ten became a police station for a while.                                

On the site of the present car park there stood a cottage. This was thought to be made of locally quarried stone. Its history can only be traced back to 1808 when it was occupied by Charles Williams.


The third of four cottages on High Street is White Cottage. The early history of this cottage is untraceable, but its style – brick-built with gable-end chimney stack suggests the period just before 1800. In 1842, the cottage was owned by Edward Wilcox, a member of a local family who owned several properties including the Ship.


On high ground overlooking the road is the fourth cottage, Glebe Cottage. So called because it was built on land which at one time belonged to the church. When the cottage was modernised in the late 20th century, timber panels were found the back of the house with the original in-fill of wattle and daub suggesting that the cottage was more than three hundred years old.


150 years ago the High Street would have been a very quiet, with no chapel, no Co-op, in fact hardly any shops at all. Just the cottages and views over to the Court House. It sits on a high sill of local white sandstone. The name suggests that the local manor court was held here.

The first recorded mention of it is in 1814 when Thomas Fenn, a weaver lived here. After this the name appears quite frequently throughout the 19th century.


Still on the east side overlooking the old school was the site of Hill Head, a small farm. A cottage stood here until about 40 years ago. It is first mentioned by name in 1663. The lane which led up beside the house can still be followed.

During the 19th century, Hill Head belonged to the owners of Rhea Hall. On the 1842 map the area is marked as ‘the site of Hill Head House.


These also belonged to Rhea hall in 1842 but we know little about who lived in them except that they were probably farm labourers. This row of cottages are made of white sandstone and may have been built for quarry workers, as quarrying was the most important village industry before the development of coal mining.  In the 18th century it was the only industry in Highley.


Shown on the 1842 map as two dwellings, with gardens, one occupied by Samuel Hardwick, a farm labourer. Today there are three cottages so one must have been divided since 1842. There have certainly been many alterations to these cottages over the years. They are built of rosy-red, narrow bricks of the 18th century, but part of their construction is of square-framed timber panels which are unlikely to date after 1730.

They are in a prime position, next to the church and opposite the site of the village well. It was also near the smithy which stood roughly where the old infant’s school was built. There were actually two blacksmith’s shops here in the first half of the 19th century. The other was at Rose Cottage opposite.


In 1840’s both blacksmiths were run by members of the Pritchard family.

John Harley, a wheelwright, took over as tenant in the late 19th century. (William Jordin of Netherton owned  the house) and carried on until the Derricutt family moved in around the turn of the century. During the tenancy of Mr. Harley and Mr. Derricutt, Rose Cottage became famous for its cider. Mr. Derricutt had a cider press with which he travelled all over the neighbourhood making cider for all the local farmers.